The American-Canadian thriller "Mean Dreams" (R, 1:48) is one of two
posthumous film releases for Bill Paxton (in addition to 2017's "The
Circle", in which he has a small role). When Paxton died suddenly of
complications from heart surgery at the age of 61 early in 2017,
celebrity expressions of sorrow struck one consistent chord, well
represented by Arnold Schwarzenegger's tweet that Paxton "could play
any role, but he was best at being Bill a great human being with a
huge heart." In Paxton's most famous roles, he was an ordinary,
basically decent guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances (as he
was in "Apollo 13", "Twister", "Titanic" and "U-571"). He was also very
good at playing tough and/or morally ambiguous characters (as he did in
"Aliens", "A Simple Plan", "Edge of Tomorrow" and his award-winning HBO
series "Big Love"), and some of his best work was as a basically bad
person (as in "Weird Science", "True Lies", "Frailty" (which he also
directed) and "Training Day", the TV series he was acting in when he
died). "Mean Dreams" is another great example of Paxton playing against
his true personality.
In this film, Paxton plays Wayne Caraway, a rural Michigan police officer and single dad, who is pretty bad at both roles and a pretty bad person in general. When local boy Jonas Ford (Josh Wiggins, the star of 2015's "Max") starts seeing Wayne's teenage daughter, Casey (Sophie Nélisse, who played the title role in 2013's "The Book Thief"), Wayne is pretty mean about shattering Jonas' dreams of getting closer to Casey. Mostly it's because Jonas isn't shy about trying to protect Casey from Wayne's abuse, and because Wayne doesn't want Jonas nosing around and discovering any of his other... activities.
After Jonas fails to get his father (Joe Cobden) or Wayne's boss (Colm Feore) to intervene on Casey's behalf, he takes matters into his own hands. When he witnesses an example of just how bad a man that Wayne is, Jonas steals some money, grabs Casey and hits the road. Of course, Wayne comes after his daughter with a (literal) vengeance. As Jonas and Casey struggle to get away from Casey's dad for good, they confront the harsh realities of life on the run (especially as it pertains to two teenagers in the middle of nowhere), break some laws and put their safety and the safety of others at risk along the way.
"Mean Dreams" is a small, but entertaining coming-of-age movie. The two teen protagonists aren't quite Bonnie and Clyde, but their saga is engaging and their love story is affecting. Nélisse and Wiggins are two rising young stars whose emerging talents shine through in sympathetic roles and Paxton does his usual expert work as one really bad dude. The script (by Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby) and the direction (by Nathan Morlando) keep the action and dialog both unusually grounded and fairly unpredictable, especially for this kind of film. The score and the cinematography (filmed creatively and beautifully in northern Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie) are also very good, especially for a movie made on a small budget. The film is a bit lacking in gravitas, but it's worth a look to see Paxton in his last major role and for the overall quality of the film itself. "B+"
Mean Dreams is a thriller about a fifteen-year-old boy who steals a bag of drug money and runs away with the girl he loves while her corrupt cop father hunts them down. This coming-of-age fable brings together the desperation of life on the run and the beauty and wonder of first love.
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May 18, 2017 at 09:54 PM